If Rick Santorum falls short in Iowa, it won’t be for lack of trying.  In an interview yesterday, the Republican presidential hopeful expressed some sympathy for those Occupiers who worry that Americans might be losing out on a “fair shot” at the American dream, but strongly rebuked their aim for “income equality.”  Santorum instead heartily endorsed income inequality, and rebuked President Obama for backing what Santorum called “Marxism”:

Occupy Wall Street activists have misguided aims, but they are tapping into Americans’ accurate perception that many people are being denied a fair shot at a good life, Rick Santorum said Tuesday.

“The reason you see some sympathy among the American public for them is the grave concern — and it’s a legitimate one — that blue-collar workers, lower-income workers, are having a harder and harder time rising,” the former Pennsylvania senator said at a presidential campaign stop. “They talk about income inequality. I’m for income inequality. I think some people should make more than other people, because some people work harder and have better ideas and take more risk, and they should be rewarded for it. I have no problem with income inequality.

“President Obama is for income equality. That’s socialism. It’s worse yet, it’s Marxism,” Santorum said. “I’m not for income equality. I’m not for equality of result — I’m for equality of opportunity.”

“The key in America is that people can rise, that there are opportunities to move up. In that area, America is falling short now. We are not as income-mobile as even some western European countries, according to a lot of the data. So that is something that as Republicans we should be talking about and be concerned about.”

Will this kind of economic red meat convince Iowa caucus-goers that Santorum is the best fighter for their cause?  He’s got a chicken-and-egg problem, Rich Lowry says at National Review, but Lowry thinks the Vander Plaats endorsement yesterday could break Santorum loose:

I get the impression social conservatives in Iowa have been leery of supporting him because he’s been so low in the polls, meaning he stays low in the polls. He’s always needed something to give him an initial boost of plausibility. Maybe this is it, but who knows? I tend to believe one of the three, Perry, Bachmann, or Santorum, is going to get a big boost at the end.

Walter Shapiro compares Santorum favorably to Rick Perry, both of whom are making the full-court retail-politicking press in Iowa this week and next:

I have been covering the Iowa caucuses since 1980, when I watched the first presidential candidate named George Bush do push-ups in a Des Moines YMCA to prove that he was “up for the ’80s” and the then-68-year-old Ronald Reagan was not. I worry that the intimacy and substance of caucus campaigning is fast being replaced by the disembodied world of the TV studio.

If fairness were the reigning value of politics and if in Campaignland hard-working strivers were inevitably rewarded, then Rick Santorum would at last be basking in his moment in the December sun. Instead, the former two-term Pennsylvania senator–who has conducted more than 340 town meetings (all with questions but often with not many voters)–around Iowa has been reduced to urging voters, “Do not read what the pundits say or what the polls say.” Santorum made this plea early Wednesday morning in Urbandale, a suburb of Des Moines, to 150 attentive members of the West Side Conservative Club, a group that will also be hearing Perry at the end of the month.

Watching Santorum, wearing a grey sleeveless sweater over a blue sport shirt, make his appeal at the Machine Shed Restaurant (slogan: “Now That’s Cooking”), I grew nostalgic for the way Iowa campaigns used to be. The question-and-answer format allows Santorum to display a depth and a gravity that has eluded him during the campaign debates….

Trying to find substance in Rick Perry’s stump speech is like panning for gold in the nearby Missouri River. It is theoretically possible, but it requires luck, hard work and– to use one of Perry’s favorite words–faith. “I’m a Washington outsider. I’m not afraid to step on some toes, if that’s what required,” Perry said Wednesday at the kick-off of a 14-day Iowa bus trip designed to appeal to the conservative caucus-goers who are, as Perry put it, “taking a second look” at the three-term Texas governor. …

A presidential candidate’s stump speech is like a standup comedian’s act–a from-the-heart statement of who he is, honed to a fine point through repetition, yet punctuated with improvisational riffs inspired by the moment and the crowd. Perry somehow missed that campaign memo. He repeatedly glanced down at his formal speech text Wednesday as he spoke to about 75 Iowans in a restored Victorian mansion here. The event was billed as a “town meeting,” the traditional political term for a public question-and-answer session with voters. Town meetings have always been the hallmark of early season campaigning in Iowa and New Hampshire. Perry did not get that memo either. He took no audience questions in Council Bluffs, although he did answer a few voter queries later in the day.

I’d like to think that either candidate still has a shot at the caucus win and the nomination.  Both men have qualities that recommend them for the position, and arguably both would hew more naturally toward conservatives and conservatism than the current national leaders.

In case you missed it, here’s my interview yesterday with Santorum during my daily show.  I’ve broken it out in its own clip to make it easier to access.  In the interview, Santorum discusses his differences with Perry, Newt Gingrich, and especially Ron Paul, talks about his economic and tax policies in some detail, briefly sketches out why he likes the Ryan-Wyden entitlement reform plan even more than Ryan’s original plan (and what he doesn’t like about it), and answers the critics who say he can’t win.